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It is difficult to comprehend the sheer volume of copper magnet wire that S&H manufactures. The firm’s 400 production lines produce 140,000 kilometers of wire per day in a 24/7 operation. To put that figure in perspective, if you unspooled S&H’s annual output of wire, it would reach well past the planet Venus. Copper magnet wire, which is coated with a thin layer of insulation, is a critical component of numerous electrical products, such as transformers and motors, and is not easy to manufacture.
The tolerances required for the insulation are minute, with even a tiny deviation from the specification rendering the wire useless. Considering these rigorous standards and requirements, S&H’s production volume represents a tour de force of automation and quality management.
S&H mission is to make enough wire to reach Venus every year with as few errors as possible. Working with many of the world’s leading manufacturers, such as Siemens®, Bosche® and Continental®, S&H understands that one quality lapse can jeopardize the entire vendor relationship.
“One big mistake could result in us being dropped as a supplier. Apama helps us stay on top of thousands of quality related events per second, enabling rapid responses to potential problems.”
Dirk Jäger | CIO, Schwering & Hasse
“Quality is the number one priority, and that means that the production process has to be transparent. The new Apamabased solution enables us to monitor the production processes with significantly finer granularity, thereby achieving considerably higher quality standards.”
Dirk Jäger | CIO, Schwering & Hasse
One reason for this extreme quality requirement is that the copper wire is usually integrated into customers’ products. For example, a defect can cause a costly recall of steering columns or power tools. Furthermore, in internal cost terms, S&H is processing over a million euros per day in copper, employing hundreds of people and using prodigious amounts of electricity. Issues related to quality are costly and detrimental to key client relationships.
Building a transparent factory
Customer demands around product specifications consistently change at a rapid pace—a reality that puts pressure on S&H’s quality management infrastructure. The company had already very high quality standards in place, but it became clear that existing information systems were equipped to create a factory that was truly “transparent” to both line workers and managers. S&H had been using a system that was neither detailed enough to be aware of every phase in the production process nor capable of providing information in real time.
Therefore, an upgrade was in order. The goal was to enable the organization to have more immediate and accurate visibility into multiple production quality factors. For example, if the heat of the wire being coated with insulation rose or fell out of a narrow temperature range, a potential lapse in quality would result. The faster that problem could be addressed, the better the outcome. Packaged software was an option, as was custom-coding a completely new quality management system. However, both of these options were unappealing as the packaged software was not suited to the S&H standards, and custom coding involved a lengthy, costly and error-prone process. S&H wanted to build its next-generation quality management systems using a platform that had the essential event processing pieces in place but allowed for economical, flexible customization and integration.
Superior performance and ease of use in head-to-head tests
S&H selected Apama as the platform for new quality management solution. Apama gives S&H the ability to monitor dozens of independent quality factors in real time and process them against relevant production data. For example, Apama enables S&H to be aware of specific machines, copper lots, workers and production parameters such as temperature—all in the context of historical manufacturing data. The system can handle up to 50,000 production events per second, more than enough headroom to keep up with the production lines. Apama provided S&H with a complete toolset to design and implement the quality management solution across its complete “transparent factory.” The developer tools made it possible to create factory-floor-level interfaces using screens that line workers could use to monitor quality and input data of their own. “We can model the entire production process in Apama,” said Dirk Jäger, CIO at Schwering & Hasse. “This gives us the ability to manage quality consistently as we juggle multiple changing specifications and customer requirements.”
The Big Results:
S&H enjoys many new production and quality management advantages now that it has deployed the Apama-based quality management systems. The factory has become more transparent and managers are able to have a greater level of awareness of production operations than ever before. For example, previously, they could examine 100-meter sections of wire. New high-voltage fault detection devices and sensors enable Apama to monitor at a level of precision to within 25 millimeters. This represents truly continuous quality control and improvement. Operators can detect subtle fluctuations in production results in real time and intervene immediately to guarantee that the products are error-free. The company can introduce new products more quickly by modeling the production process and implementing new specifications on the factory floor. Line workers can interact with the quality management system in real time, receiving critical information and inputting relevant production data through intuitive touch screens. The Apama-based solution enables S&H to grow and improve its margins, rapidly introducing new products and servicing new markets without worrying about overstretching its quality manufacturing capability, the foundation of its business.